University of Washington

Pac-12 championship breakdown: No. 4 Washington vs. No. 8 Colorado

No. 4 WASHINGTON HUSKIES (11-1, 8-1 in Pac-12) vs. No. 9 COLORADO BUFFALOES (10-2, 8-1 in Pac-12)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. Friday, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California

TV: Ch. 13. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7 FM.

THE MATCHUPS

QUARTERBACK

Jake Browning was voted the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year after throwing 40 touchdown passes in 12 regular-season games. He is also a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year and still has a chance to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, a Tacoma native, has rushed for 483 yards and seven TDs and passed for 2,150 yards and 11 TDs. He’s a solid player and one of the reasons CU won the South, but the edge goes to the Huskies here.

THE EDGE: UW

RUNNING BACKS

Colorado tailback Phillip Lindsay had a productive regular season, finishing fourth in the Pac-12 with 1,136 yards and a league-leading 15 TDs. Backup tailback Kyle Evans has 346 yards rushing and three TDs. UW’s top two backs, Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman, combined for 1,915 yards and 16 TDs with an average of 6.7 yards per rush. And Gaskin finished third in the league in rushing.

THE EDGE: UW

RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Washington’s top two receivers, John Ross and Dante Pettis, have combined for 30 TD receptions this season, the most ever by a pair of Pac-12 teammates, per UW sports information. Ross was named first-team all-conference after catching 72 passes for 1,071 yards and 16 scores, two shy of the school record. Colorado has some playmakers here, too, particularly Shay Fields (50 catches, 819 yards, 9 TDs) and Devin Ross (65 catches, 758 yards, 5 TDs), and Bryce Bobo and Jay MacIntyre round out a solid group. But Ross, Pettis and Chico McClatcher form a trio that is hard to top.

THE EDGE: UW

OFFENSIVE LINE

Washington landed two offensive linemen, left tackle Trey Adams and left guard Jake Eldrenkamp, on the All-Pac-12 first team, and landed center Coleman Shelton on the second team. The Huskies rank 18th nationally in yards per rush while Colorado ranks 89th, and UW has allowed 19 sacks while Colorado has allowed 27. The Buffaloes did have a second-team All-Pac-12 linemen themselves — junior Jeromy Irwin — but Washington appears to have the better group.

THE EDGE: UW

DEFENSIVE LINE

Washington ranks 20th nationally in yards per rush allowed at 3.50, while Colorado ranks 38th at 3.90. Fifth-year senior nose tackle Josh Tupou is a force in the middle of Colorado’s line, and defensive end Jordan Carrell (46 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles for loss, 5 1/2 sacks) has been productive, too. UW, though, has a first-team all-conference selection in Elijah Qualls, a second-team pick in Vita Vea and a solid run-stopper in Greg Gaines.

THE EDGE: UW

LINEBACKERS

Washington is a little thin here, with star middle linebacker Azeem Victor out for the season due to a leg fracture. Keishawn Bierria, of course, is still very tough at weakside linebacker, and DJ Beavers has done an admirable job filling in for Victor. But Colorado’s trio of Jimmie Gilbert (12 1/2 tackles for loss, 9 sacks), Rick Gamboa and Kenneth Olugbode are an imposing bunch.

THE EDGE: COLORADO

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Man, is this one close. Colorado ranks fourth in the country in pass defense efficiency, and allows opposing QBs to complete only 48.8 percent of their passes. That’s really good. The Buffaloes are third in the nation in yards per pass attempt allowed (5.4). That’s also really good. Washington, meanwhile, landed two defensive backs on the All-Pac-12 first team, and the Huskies would put their trio of Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and Kevin King up against anybody (and UW ranks 16th nationally in pass defense efficiency). Both of these secondaries are loaded.

THE EDGE: EVEN

SPECIAL TEAMS

Colorado ranks 119th nationally in average punt-return yardage allowed and 126th in average kick-return yardage allowed. The Huskies, meanwhile, have the two most dangerous returners in school history on kickoffs (Ross) and punts (Pettis), and they cover both kickoffs and punts better than the Buffaloes. UW also has the more accurate kicker.

THE EDGE: UW

THE PICK

There is no doubt that Colorado and Washington have the two best defenses in the conference. In fact, they are eighth and ninth nationally in yards per play (4.669 to 4.671). But it seems the Huskies have the more efficient and productive offense, so here’s a guess Browning, Ross and Gaskin lead UW to its first conference title in 16 years.

Washington 31, Colorado 16.

  Comments